Unlike the online version of Seattle Weekly, today's print edition contains just one story, 33 pages long (the entire issue, including advertisements, contains 56 pages). It is the result of an idea back in 2002 to write a few obituaries about local soldiers dying in Afghanistan. Our President told us it would be a quick war, and we figured on doing perhaps a handful of death notices over the next year or so. But it went on, and on, followed by another "quick" war, both of which continue indefinitely. And so today you can pick up SW at the newsstand and for the first time see, in black and white, just how long these wars have lasted--393 obits long, from Army Sgt. Nathan Chapman, 31, of Puyallup, the first U.S. soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan, to Army Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey, 27, a Special Forces fighter from Joint Base Lewis McChord who died Saturday in Afghanistan.
SW editor-in-chief Mike Seely explains in an introduction his decision to devote the print edition to these installments of death. He notes that Afghanistan "registers as but a blip on most civilians' emotional radars" and--personally moved by the fact that August was the deadliest month yet in the 10-year Afghanistan war--he chose, "for one issue anyway," to "atone for whatever short shrift we've given the wars in the Middle East . . . "
The 393 dead all were based, raised, or had family in Washington. Ages 18 to 53, they left behind 246 children, 169 widows, and four widowers. Some of their deaths, such as football star Pat Tillman's covered-up shooting by his fellow soldiers, made world headlines. But most were local stories about that kid down the street, such as Army Spc. Justin W. Hebert, 20, of rural Snohomish County, the state's first combat fatality in Iraq. As we wrote of his 2003 funeral:
During the memorial, sister Jessica, her long, red hair falling across her face as she tried to read her notes and wipe her eyes, had briefly breathed her brother back to life. "I'm sorry for all the times I beat you up," she said, gulping hard to talk. She was his No. 1 fan. She bragged about him, he was her red, white, and blue, Jessica said. When she got to "I've got to let you go now, dear brother," her shoulders fell and she sobbed to a finish.
Likely no one in Hebert's small town of Sylvana had been thinking of Kirkuk, Iraq, where he died, when Justin left for the Army a week after high-school graduation in 2001, a few months before 9/11. But hopefully a few will remember it, and Justin, today, for one issue anyway.